Hidden Hiking Gem of Colorado

When people think of hiking in Colorado, most minds go straight to intense 14ers or alpine-lined mountain trails. I don't blame them; that's usually what I think of, too. As I write this post, I'm stealing glances over my computer to look at the Rocky Mountains... just thinking about the next hike I plan to accomplish. 

While mountain hikes do live up to their expectations, consider this:
Prairie fields, sand trails, and extraordinary badlands all within driving distance from Denver. How can there be such a place in Colorado? Despite popular belief, Eastern Colorado still has outdoor activities to offer. 

Paint Mines Interpretive Park

Driving to the Paint Mines is like driving to the middle of nowhere. The mountains disappear in your rearview mirror, civilization is scarce, and it somehow feels like you've transported yourself to a completely different state. It's easy to pass up the entrance if you're not paying attention to Google Maps. I promise, I'm not trying to scare you off.

The trail is slow to start, not offering anything exciting except maybe a wind farm in the distance. I believe it was designed as such to build anticipation or weed out those who truly don't value Earth's beauty. Either way, don't expect to be dazzled right away. Enjoy the gentle rolling hill landscape and the open sky. I think that's why I call the Paint Mines a hidden gem. 

Once you round the main trail corner, your eyes will be greeted with a mix of prairie field and uniquely shaped clay-rich and sedimentary rock formations. The winding trail transitions from crunchy gravel to soft white sands and the paint mines tower over you, making you feel incredibly small. 

Getting lost in the Paint Mines has my favorite December activity thus far. Your turn.